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Spirit of ’67

Roaring from San Francisco to the redwoods in the Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe

Author Nick Czap Illustration Barry Bruner



The 4C was designed to be heard as well as seen. Its air-hungry turbocharger and racing exhaust emit a tantalizing hiss and burble as we set off through San Francisco’s Presidio toward the Golden Gate Bridge. Tweak the throttle just a bit, and it howls.


Passersby gawk at the 4C’s silhouette, a shape inspired by Alfa Romeo’s 1967 33 Stradale, which many auto historians consider the most beautiful car ever made.


Despite its small size, the 4C feels safe and secure amid the high-speed traffic on Highway 101. Built on a carbon-fiber chassis, the car is solid and extremely light, which makes for effortless passing and excellent fuel economy (34 mpg, highway).


On a rural road heading toward Point Reyes, I’m torn between the view ahead and the one in the rear-view mirror. Beneath a glass canopy, the 4C’s all-aluminum 1.75-liter engine pivots on its mounts under torque, a sight almost as compelling as the hills of coastal Marin County.


Carving up the redwood-shrouded roads of Mount Tam, I feel every bump and groove through the leather-wrapped wheel. There’s no hydraulic assist or drive-by-wire here: Manual rack-and-pinion steering creates a driving experience that’s both tactile and precise.


On the smoother asphalt of  Highway 1 heading back to  San Francisco, I sample the 4C’s driving modes. All-Weather keeps a computer-aided handle on things when conditions are slick. Natural  is for everyday use. Dynamic bumps up the power and dials back the stability control. Race mode? It’s probably best to save that one for the track.

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